Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2017, Pt. 2

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More Heroes Talk

In the second of two on-location interview episodes recorded at this year’s HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek talks with Fabian Rangel, Jr. (author of Tarantula), Charles Forsman (Slasher), Chris Sheridan (Motorcycle Samurai), Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie), and Alison Sampson (Winnebago Graveyard), and Andy and Derek speak with Darren Neely (Chase Van Bolt). Fun stuff!

Stay tuned over the next week for more HeroesCon episodes!

 

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2017, Pt. 1

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Heroes Talk

In the first of two on-location interview episodes recorded at this year’s HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek talks with a variety of artists, writers, and editors. Some of these are creators with whom Derek was already familiar, some have even talked on the podcast before, and some are are new discoveries. In this show you’ll hear brief discussions with Ben Sears (author of Volcano Trash), Abby Howard (The Last Halloween), Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner (Shirtless Bear Fighter), Andy Hirsch (Science Comics: Dogs), Matthew David Smith and Jeremy Massie (Amazing Age), Tyler Chin-Tanner (Broken Frontier), Sam Costello (Split Lip Comics), and Thom Zahler (Time and Vine).

Stay tuned over the next week for other episodes generated at this year’s HeroesCon!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominees

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:55 – Webcomics news: The Library of Congress’ Web Comics Web Archive
  • 00:11:24 – Trying to make sense of the Eisner Awards’ “Best Web Comic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories
  • 00:30:37 – The Middle Age
  • 00:44:30 – On Beauty
  • 00:56:54 – Helm
  • 01:08:27 – On a Sunbeam
  • 01:32:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:34:14 – Contact us

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Definitionally Challenged

For the June webcomics episode, Sean and Derek take a close look at the webcomics nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards. Before they do that, though, they have to determine exactly which titles are actually webcomics and which are not. If this sounds strange, that’s because this year the people behind the Eisner Awards have separated “Best Digital Comics” and “Best Webcomic” into two completely different categories — which is a good thing — but in doing so they have ill-defined the criteria to where there are digital comics mixed in the “Best Webcomic” category and webcomics in the “Best Digital Comic” category. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any clear distinctions between the two…which was the problem in previous years when webcomics and digital comics were unfortunately clumped into the same category. Sean and Derek discuss in detail the problems underlying this year’s categorization, and they offer advice for next year’s judges and hope that in the future there will be a much more precise understanding of what a webcomic actually is.

After that, they begin discussing the real webcomics that are scattered between the “Best Webcomic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories. There are five in all, and in this episode they discuss Steve Conley’s The Middle Age and Christina Tran’s On Beauty (both nominated for “Best Webcomic”), as well as Jahanzeb Hasan and Mauricio Caballero’s Helm and Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam (inexplicably nominated under “Best Digital Comic”). Anne Szabla’s Bird Boy was also nominated as a webcomic, but since the guys discussed that title on a previous webcomics episode, they spend their time talking about the other nominees. And as the guys reveal, there is a reason why these four titles are nominated for an Eisner Award this year. They’re all well-written, keenly drawn, and ambitious in what each endeavors to accomplish. Both Sean and Derek wish this year’s webcomics creators, despite the appropriateness of the categories for which they’re nominated, the best of luck when the announcements are made at next month’s SDCC!

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Moby Dick and The Interview

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Catching up
  • 00:05:04 – Moby Dick
  • 00:48:50 – The Interview
  • 01:18:18 – Wrap up
  • 01:18:58 – Contact us

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Pasteboard Masks

This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss two black-and-white narratives, one an adaptation of a classic text and another an offbeat tale of aliens and relationships. They begin with Christophe Chabouté’s rendering of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (note the lack of hyphen in the title), released earlier this year from Dark Horse Books. After mentioning many of the earlier comics adaptations of the great American novel — and there are a lot — they plunge into Chabouté’s handling, highlighting some of the differences from the earlier versions. Both cohosts come from two very different perspectives in their analyses, since Derek is very familiar with the original novel and Edward has not yet read it. As such, their approaches are varied and multifaceted.

Next, they turn to the latest translation of Manuele Fior, The Interview (Fantagraphics). This is a markedly different kind of story from 5,000 km Per Second, a book that Gwen and Derek reviewed last year. As Edward points out, the draw of The Interview isn’t so much the story, but its tone or the affect generated by the text. This is a tale about relationships, and Fior’s art deftly expresses the subtitles and complications that underlie all of our interactions. You may come away from this book with a feeling of uncertainly and irresolution, but that seems to be a part of Fior’s project.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 243: The June Previews Catalog

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Ben Affleck and Jason Lee

The Two Guys with PhDs, AKA “Ben” and “Jason,” are back with another Previews episode. And for the month of June, there’s a lot that Andy and Derek want to highlight. Among the many upcoming titles they discuss are:

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 242: A Discussion of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominations

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The Meryl Streep of Comics

EisnerNominee-banner

Earlier this month the nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards were announced at the Comic-Con International website, and as Andy and Derek like to do every year, they’re devoting a full episode of The Comics Alternative to a discussion of the nominations. On this week’s show, the Two Guys give their impressions of the various nominees, both as a whole and on a category-by-category basis, making observations and trying to understand any trends underlying this year’s selections. However, Derek and Andy resist the urge to play armchair quarterbacks, so they don’t second-guess the six-member panel of judges or focus on what they would have chosen if they had been on the selection committee. As diligent comics scholars, they judicial and discerning in their commentary. At the same time, they don’t shy away from pointing out a few inconsistencies and a few head-scratchers when trying to make sense of this year’s nominations.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Scumbag Loser and Sweetness and Lightning

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:21 – Listener mail!
  • 00:04:28 – Comments on the 2017 Eisner Award nominations
  • 00:09:26 – Scumbag Loser
  • 00:52:10 – Sweetness and Lightning
  • 01:21:25 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:14 – Contact us

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Sweet and Sour

For the month of May, Shea and Derek discuss two works of manga that, while not necessarily diametrically opposed, are tonally opposite from one another. The first title is Mikoto Yamaguti’s Scumbag Loser (Yen Press). What begins as a story about a teenage outsider with a unique smelling ability quickly turns into a horror story involving mysterious non-human forces. As the guys discuss, there are few characters in this book worthy of sympathy, but it is this lack of empathic closeness that makes this an affecting narrative. However, the guys aren’t without their reservations, as Shea points out in his take on Yamaguti’s patriarchal approach to his subject matter. Derek agrees, but he also sees the text’s larger themes — e.g., the unrealistic demands on youth conformity — saving it from a kind of morbid frivolity.

Next, the guys turn to a series from Kodansha Comics, Gido Amagakure’s Sweetness and Lightning. The English translations became available beginning July of last year, and as of the time of this podcast recording, Kodansha has released five volumes. (Volume 6 is due out in early June.) This is a first for The Comics Alternative, a discussion of cooking manga. It’s the story of Kouhei Inuzuka, a recently widowed father, and his daughter Tsumugi. He is unable to cook adequately for his family, and eventually he becomes close with one of his students, Kotori, who helps him become proficient in the kitchen. The series is a collection of episodes, each involving a dilemma where food preparation, complete with useful menus, helps to alleviate the problem. At the same time, cooking brings everyone closer together…even hinting at complicating affections. This is a nice read and, as Shea suggests, one to take out with you on a pleasant spring day.

Comics Alternative, Episode 241: Reviews of Boundless and User

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Time Codes:

  • 00:01:23 – Introduction
  • 00:05:11 – Welcome new Patreon supporters!
  • 00:08:34 – Boundless
  • 00:44:55 – User
  • 01:16:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:43 – Contact us

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Reality Askew

This week on the review show Paul joins Derek in discussing two new recent releases. They begin with Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless, published by Drawn and Quarterly. This is a collection of nine short stories, most of which have been previously published in FrontierNobrow, and Hazlitt.net. The guys begin by discussing how Tamaki structures the contents, along with including new pieces, in order to give the collection visual and thematic coherency. Unlike her longer narratives Skim and This One Summer, both with her cousin Mariko, Tamaki tends to use the shorter storytelling forms to create pieces that are slightly askew and bend the reality that we know.

Next, Paul and Derek turn to Devin Grayson, John Bolton, and Sean Phillips’s User (Image Comics). This was originally published as a three-issue prestige-format miniseries through Vertigo Comics in 2001, but until now has never been collected in a single volume. User is the tale of a young woman finding refuge in a MUD, escaping the chaos that surrounds her real-life work and family. What makes the narrative notable is its handling of online interaction and gender identification, quite provocative at the time of its original publication. And while the guys appreciate what Grayson and company are doing, they note the slightly dated nature of this comic. As they point out, understanding the temporal context puts everything into perspective.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Dave Chisholm

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  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:31 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:48 – Interview with Dave Chisholm
  • 01:03:55 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:04- Contact us

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With Great Talent Comes…

On this interview episode, Derek talks with Dave Chisholm, whose new book Instrumental comes out soon from Z2 Comics. This is the story of a musician who comes upon a trumpet with unique powers, allowing him to transform the lives around him, including those of his fellow bandmates. Dave’s background — a professional trumpet player, songwriter, composer, bandleader, and educator — becomes the wellspring from which he pulls his narrative, so much of his conversation with Derek is devoted to the power of music and its translation into visual form. The graphic novel also comes with a soundtrack, seven songs composed and performed by Dave. Over the course of the interview the two discuss the genesis of this project, the fantastical nature of the story, the unique links between audio and visual representations, and Dave’s work as an artist on this and other projects, including the Study Group webcomic, The Tyranny of the Muse.

Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Children’s and Young Adult Comics

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Forever Young

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Gwen and Derek moderate a roundtable discussion on comics for children and young adults. Joining them in the conversation are Karly Marie Grice and Joe Sutliff Sanders, both contributors to the brand new book coedited by Gwen, Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Essays (University Press of Mississippi). Over the course of the roundtable, both Joe and Karly present the research they conducted for the collection — the aesthetics of children’s digital comics and contesting narratives in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints, respectively — but the core of the discussion centers on the current state of children’s and adolescent comics, the scholarship surrounding it, questions of demographics, and the pedagogical challenges facing educators when framing the medium.

Gwen’s coeditor, Michelle Ann Abate, had planned on joining the roundtable discussion, but due to technical difficulties she was unable to do so.

Comics Alternative, Episode 240: A Publisher Spotlight on Koyama Press

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Holy Balls!

For this week’s review episode the Two Guys with PhDs turn a critical spotlight on Koyama Press and its spring 2017 releases. They devoted an entire episode to Koyama a couple of years ago, but this season there are just so many great titles coming out from the press that the guys wanted to look at all of their releases and not just two or three scheduled across several weeks. First, though, they share a brief conversation with the press’ founder and publisher, Annie Koyama, who provides an overview and history of the Canadian publishing house.

Then the guys start discussing the new releases, beginning with Eleanor Davis’s You & a Bike & a Road, a diary comic of her time biking from Arizona to Georgia and the various experiences and encounters she had along the way. Reading this book has even gotten Derek back exercising on his bike, although Andy wasn’t inspired in quite the same way. After that they look at another autobiographical work in diary form, Keiler Roberts’s Sunburning. The Two Guys have discussed Roberts’s work on the podcast previously, but this is the first time the both of them have focused on one of her entire books, her first Koyama Press release.

Next, they turn to Crawl Space, the latest from Koyama creator Jesse Jacobs. This is a visually unique work, combining Jacobs’s geometric abstractions with a straightforward, yet self-reflexibly revealing, storyline. Another experimental work is Eric Kostiuk Williams’s Condo Heartbreak Disco. At the center of this narrative are Komio and The Willendorf Braid, two figures whose stories are part of Williams’s Hungry Bottom Comics series, of which neither of the guys are familiar (unfortunately).

Then it’s on to Volcano Trash, the follow up to Ben Sears’s Night Air which was leased last year. This all-age adventure featuring Plus Man and Hank is one of the highlights of the week, and the guys hope Sears continues developing this series. And finally, Andy and Derek wrap up with Jane Mai and An Nguyen’s hybrid text, So Pretty/Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture. This is a fascinating exploration of a cultural trend that neither of the guys really knew much about — at least in detail — and one that caters to their scholarly sensibilities.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag

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Time Codes:

  • 00:26 – Introduction
  • 02:14 – Setup of interview
  • 04:04 – Interview with Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag
  • 57:52 – Wrap up
  • 59:37 – Contact us

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The Stars Are Indispensable

On this interview episode Gwen and Derek talk with Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag. Their new book Shattered Warrior comes out this week from First Second, and they discuss their experiences in developing the project and their process of collaboration. This is Sharon’s first graphic novel — she’s the author of over 25 prose novels — so she shares her journey of discover while working in a different medium. And while Molly is primarily known for her successful webcomic Strong Female Protagonist (co-created with Brennan Lee Mulligan), this is her first time in working on a longer, sustained narrative for print. Gwen and Derek talk with their guests about the genesis of this story, the excitement of world creation, and their thoughts on intended reading audiences.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Flight of the Raven and The Reprieve

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:08 – Comments on the Eisner Award nominations
  • 00:08:31 – Flight of the Raven
  • 00:42:47 – The Reprieve
  • 01:06:13 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:15 – Contact us

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Hollywood?

Edward and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode. This month, they focus on recent translations of the work of Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Flight of the Raven (IDW/EuroComics) and both volumes of The Reprieve (Europe Comics). Edward is very familiar with Gibrat’s work, as he was the translator of The Reprieve, and so he provides his insights within that context. Throughout their discussion of these narratives, the guys highlight what they see as the thematic links between the two, all of which springs from the books’ settings: WW II France during German occupation. Indeed, the two stories are companion pieces with the character Cécile appearing in both. The Reprieve takes place before the Normandy invasion with Julien Sarlat, escaping from mandatory German labor, hiding out in his small hometown with the help of Cécile and one of her acquaintances in the French Resistance. The action in Flight of the Raven begins around the time of the Allied landing, with Cécile’s sister, Jeanne, being jailed for unlawful weapons possession. She is a communist and active member of the Resistance, and her story is interlinked with that of François, a roguish thief who appears apolitical. As both Edward and Derek point out, Gibrat uses both tales to explore ideas concerning commitment, responsibility, and collaboration, and each of the characters his stories illustrates facets of engagé. The art in both works is lush and beautiful, and Gibrat’s pacing is aptly handled given the contextual action, and sometimes the lack thereof, embedded in each narrative.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:30 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:47 – Interview with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
  • 01:10:00 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:29 – Contact us

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Yeggs

For this interview episode, the Two Guys with PhDs talk with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the creators behind The Damned, from Oni Press. This is a series with some history, beginning back in 2006 with the five-issues run, “Three Days Dead,” and then the three-issue miniseries from 2008, “Prodigal Sons.” Soon after that, Cullen and Brian began The Sixth Gun, but now that that long-running series is behind them, they decided to revisit and revitalize their first creative project together. Over the course of their conversation, Cullen and Brian talk about their efforts to reprint the original comics in color — and with the help of the new series’ colorist, Bill Crabtree — the impetus behind the new on-going series, their work together on The Sixth Gun, and their process of collaboration on The Damned. Andy and Derek also ask them about some of their other projects, including Cullen’s Harrow County (with Tyler Crook) and Brian’s Poppy! and the Lost Lagoon (with Matt Kindt).

Comics Alternative, Episode 239: Reviews of Herman by Trade, Rise of the Dungeon Master, and Eternal Empire #1

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Huzzah!

This week Andy and Derek look at three new titles, each one visiting the fantastic in one form or another. Before they jump into the reviews, however, they discuss some of the big comics news from the past week: the announcement of the 2017 Eisner Award nominations and Free Comic Book Day. The guys don’t go into too much detail about the Eisner nominees because they plan on devoting an upcoming episode to that topic. However, they do briefly mention the curious situation surrounding the nomination of the Love Is Love collection in the Best Anthology category. They have much more to say about last Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day. Both guys share some of their experiences at their local shops and the free comics they got there. Listen to the podcast’s FCBD episode for more details.

But then the Two Guys get into the heart of this week’s show. They begin with Chris W. Kim’s Herman by Trade, coming out this week from SelfMadeHero. Although on the surface this appears to be a more realistic narrative, its fantastic elements become apparent in the transformation of the title character who has the ability to change his appearance and mimic others’ abilities at will. As both Derek and Andy point out, this is an unusual story that sticks with you long after reading.

Next, they turn to a new graphic biography that is all about fantasy, Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D (Nation Books). The art is by Koren Shadmi, but the book is written by David Kushner, based on a profile he wrote for Wired magazine in 2008. What’s most notable about this brief biography is the narrative point of view, almost entirely presented in the second person. This is fully in keeping with the spirit of role-playing games, where in this case the the narrating presence is, in essence, your “dungeon master” guiding your awareness as you enter the creators’ biographical realm.

Finally, Andy and Derek conclude with the latest collaboration from Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. Eternal Empire #1 (Image Comics) is a fantasy set in a distant world that, as Andy points out, is reminiscent of Game of Thrones. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time speculating on the originality of this series, wondering if the unique elements will become more apparent in the issues to come. And while Andy isn’t sure if he’ll stick around to find out, Derek is going to give Eternal Empire a chance, especially given his appreciation of the Luna brothers’ previous comics, and especially Luna and Vaughn’s previous series Alex + Ada.